The Ernest Cook Trust has welcomed the latest recruit to its education team, in a new collaboration which extends its expertise to the iconic Chatsworth Estate.

Former primary school teacher Nicola Spence joined ECT in February. But unlike the Trust’s other education staff who run sessions for schoolchildren on its country estates, Nicola will be based at Chatsworth, in the Peak District.

The Ernest Cook Trust, based in Fairford, Gloucestershire, is one of the UK's leading educational charities, and owns and manages 22,000 acres of country estates across five English counties.

ECT actively encourages children and young people to learn from the land through free-of-charge education programmes on its estates, and by giving grants.

Last year nearly 32,000 children visited the Ernest Cook Trust’s estates, and each year its Trustees distribute £1.8m to a range of education initiatives throughout the UK.

Chatsworth House is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Along with its gardens and estate, the stately home attracts around 600,000 visitors each year with about 20,000 education visits.

Nicola Spence’s role as the attraction’s Outdoor Education Officer came about through a partnership between the Ernest Cook Trust and Chatsworth’s Devonshire Educational Trust.

The collaboration began in 2015 when ECT hosted a fact-finding visit by Lord Burlington, a Trustee of the Devonshire Educational Trust.

“They were so impressed with our model of outdoor learning that they now want to learn from our experiences on the Chatsworth Estate,” said ECT’s Head of Education Anne Newman.

At present, outdoor learning makes up a small percentage of visits to Chatsworth, but the new partnership aims to grow these numbers.

Nicola, aged 29, from Sheffield, said: “There’s already a range of outdoor learning activities happening at Chatsworth. But the way the Ernest Cook Trust works, taking any subject out of the classroom and teaching it outdoors, this is the next stage for us. It’s truly inspirational.”

And what’s it like being a teacher whose ‘classroom’ is in the grounds of Chatsworth House? “I feel so fortunate,” she says. “I have this big grin on my face when I come into work.”

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